Rob Reviews "Beau Is Afraid"
A good friend of mine once said something that has stuck with me: “3-D has never made a script better”. I have expanded this concept to any form of premium format when it comes to entertainment, and the latest example of that is the latest film from the director of Midsommar and Hereditary, Ari Aster in Beau is Afraid.
Aster also writes the script here where the title character (Joaquin Phoenix) is getting ready to visit his mother when his entire life gets turned upside down. His life’s timeline jumps around during his journey as he is forced to confront things that he has done his best to get away from in order to make his way home.
The only way I can truly describe this film is as this: what if Joaquin Phoenix hosted back-to-back episodes of SNL (this film is THREE HOURS LONG) as a character that meanders through different sketches that may or may not have a thread that runs through them? Given my disappointment with the way that show has been written in this season specifically, that assessment really isn’t that far off. Most of this feels like an “art for art’s sake” fever dream that is a mashup of a room full of people pitching different films where Aster didn’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings and used ALL of them. With a supporting cast that includes Amy Ryan, Nathan Lane, Parker Posey, and Zoe Lister-Jones amongst others, it seems like more that they wanted to work with Aster no matter what the material was and wound up on the short end of the stick. Maybe they only had access to their part of the script and thought the rest would be like that (although there are a couple of exceptions here, especially in the third act), and if that was the case, I would be interested what it is going to be like when they see what made it to the screen. There will be those that may want to go back and give Beau is Afraid a second watch to see any context clues that would pull all of the scatter-shot story together, and while there may be some of those, I would be hard-pressed to want to do so outside of maybe its first ten minutes and I am still not sure it would make enough of a difference to invest in that.
If there is a positive to this film, it really does have very impressive visual images, especially in the middle third. I did get to screen this film in IMAX, and while it really did take advantage of its audio and video format, it really does not do anything to make me want to recommend this film in any way, shape, or form. Listening to comments made from others that were not part of the reviewing press made me wonder if I am about two decades older than the target demographic for this film, but I am not completely sure that is even the case. There will be those with a morbid curiosity here to see this film, but if you are one of those people, don’t say you were not forewarned, especially given the running time of this film. Remember that you still have to add commercials and trailers to the front end here, so you may have to block out an afternoon.